NFC South outlook: what is the hierarchy after Tampa Bay?

Will we see two NFC South playoff squads?

By: Jake Rajala

Santa’s sleigh and Week 14 of the NFL are just around the corner. It may be more hazardous with the weather, but the NFL playoff picture is becoming more clear as the month of December rolls on. 

The AFC and NFC conferences truly have their contenders revealed and it’s obvious which squads hold the key for bye weeks in the postseason. The notorious Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots carry a 9-4 record and they are coming off a seven-game winning streak. In the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals have a 10-2 record, a healthy MVP talent in Kyler Murray, and they can already clinch a playoff berth with a victory against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night (won the first time). 

Outside of the top dogs in each conference, it’s abundantly clear which ball clubs will capture a playoff spot. Teams like the Tennessee Titans, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens will very surely sneak into the highly coveted dance. 

With this all being stated, it’s more of a question mark which teams will snag a sixth and seventh seed in the playoff gauntlet. There is hope and uncertainty revolving around the brinks of playoff destiny in the AFC and NFC. Personally, I find it more fascinating how the NFC wildcard spots will fall at the end of the day. Furthermore, it’s intriguing to take a closer look at one particular division that holds four potential playoff squads and dissect how these teams could finish in this frisky 2020 season. So, let’s go under the microscope and see what the NFC South holds. 

NFC South rankings

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It’s undoubtedly clear that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will finish as the first seed in the NFC South and that they will win the division. Even if the Saints beat the Bucs for the fourth time in a row in the regular season, the aching Saints have too many obstacles to crawl back for division prominence. Tom Brady, who might just win the MVP at age 44, and Robert Gronkowski, who is looking to break Tony Gonzalez’s 100 yard record, have routinely shown the world that they can win their second straight Super Bowl trophy. 

Schedule predictor: 

vs Bills: win 

vs Saints: loss 

at Panthers: win 

at Jets: win 

vs Panthers: win 

Record: 13-4 

Now, let’s get to the juicy part… 

  1. New Orleans Saints: The Carolina Panthers have just fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady, while the New Orleans Saints have gotten Alvin Kamara back healthy. The Saints have so many injuries that they should make the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Chargers feel embarrassed. Nonetheless, the Saints have a significant upgrade in their QB-RB tandem than the majority of their QB-RB tandem through their five game losing streak. A half healthy Taysom Hill had the Saints competing with the talented Dallas Cowboys throughout most of their last matchup. Not only will Taysom Hill be a trustworthy upgrade over the Peyton Manning look alike in Trevor Siemian, but they will have AK back in action. Kamara (and Demario Davis) arguably edged out the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7. I really like the Saints to upset the Buccaneers. It’s easy to automatically dismiss the notion of the Saints winning because of the comparison between the two records. Yet, the Saints stack up against the Buccaneers incredibly well (think Lattimore vs Evans), the Saints will be a bit more healthy, and they simply will play the matchup as if it’s their Super Bowl. 

Schedule predictor: 

at Jets: win 

at Buccaneers: win 

vs Dolphins: loss 

vs Panthers: win 

at Falcons: win 

Record: 9-8 

  1. Carolina Panthers: The Carolina Panthers may have Superman back in action, but they face an uphill battle after their two game losing streak against the Washington Football team and Miami Dolphins. The Panthers still can hang their hat on their number two ranked defense. Not to mention that they face off against the Atlanta Falcons next week – a team they’ve knocked off once this year. All in all, I foresee their defense giving them a fighting chance this holiday season. I love the Panthers to upset the Bills in Week 15, as well. We’ve already seen the Pats defense give Josh Allen fits. I expect CAR to be harassing Allen all night and Matt Rhule to have a few tricks under his sleeve in a “win or go home” type of game. On the horizon, Matt Rhule’s squad should feel a heap of confidence knowing they’ve competed well without QB talent up to this point. They showcase a very young, ascending defense, with lots of room to improve at QB in a division where Tampa Bay has a short Super Bowl window.

Schedule predictor: 

vs Falcons: W 

at Bills: W (upset) 

vs Buccaneers: L 

at Saints: L 

at Buccaneers: L 

Record: 7-10 

  1. Atlanta Falcons: The Atlanta Falcons may have the more talented signal-caller between New Orleans, Carolina, and themselves. Yet, the Calvin Ridley less Falcon squad has an aching roster coupled with a brutal upcoming schedule. I don’t believe they have any bright spots that can pull themselves into the wildcard spaces. I like Washington to hold onto the sixth seed, but I don’t like ATL to join the mix of SF, MIN, NO, PHI, and CAR as potential seventh seeds.

Schedule predictor: 

at Panthers: L 

at 49ers: L

vs Lions: W 

at Bills: L 

vs Saints: L 

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